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All Saints
Painting by Fra Angelico
Also called All Hallows
Observed by Catholic Church,
Eastern Orthodox churches,
Anglican Communion,
among other Protestant denominations
Type Christian
Date November 1 (Western Christianity)
Sunday after Pentecost (Eastern Christianity)
Observances Church services
Related to All Saints' Eve,
All Souls' Day

All Saints' Day (in the Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas[1]), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November in Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown.

In terms of Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls' Day, specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries.

In the East

Icon second coming

Eastern Orthodox icon of All Saints. Christ is enthroned in heaven surrounded by the ranks of angels and saints. At the bottom is Paradise with the bosom of Abraham (left), and the Good Thief (right).

Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine Tradition, All Saints' Sunday (Greek: Αγίων Πάντων, Agiōn Pantōn), follows the earlier tradition of commemorating all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI "the Wise" (886–911). His wife, Empress Theophano—commemorated on December 16—lived a devout life. After her death, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints," so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

This Sunday marks the close of the Paschal season. To the normal Sunday services are added special scriptural readings and hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion.

The Sunday following All Saints Sunday—the second Sunday after Pentecost—is set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as "All Saints of America", "All Saints of Mount Athos", etc. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localized saints, such as "All Saints of St. Petersburg", or for saints of a particular type, such as "New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke."

In addition to the Sundays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints, and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos.

In the West

The Western Christian holiday of All Saints Day falls on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists of the Middle Ages based the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of "all the dead".[2]

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to November 1.[3]

This usually fell within a few weeks of the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to the Roman festival of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, whose holiday Samhain had been, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on this November 1 date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: "...the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20."[4]

A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops", which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).[5]

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches, and the Wesleyan Church. [1]

In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local church congregation[6]. In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person's name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are afixed to a memorial plaque.

Roman Catholic Obligation

In the Catholic Church All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning going to Mass on the date is required (unless one is ill or elderly). However, in the United States, All Saints Day is not considered a Holy Day of Obligation when it falls on Monday or Saturday, as well as having no obligation at all in Hawaii.[7]


All Saints Day, 1984, Oswiecim, Poland Img871

All Saints Day in an Oswiecim cemetery, Poland, 1st November 1984

In Portugal and Spain, oferendas (offerings) are made on this day. In Portugal children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus tradition. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Mexico, All Saints coincides with the celebration of "Día de los Inocentes" (Day of the Innocents), the first day of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration, honoring deceased children and infants. In Portugal, children go door to door where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates.

In Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Spain people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives.

In Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Catholic parts of Germany, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

In the Philippines, this day, called "Undas", "Todos los Santos" (literally "All Saints"), and sometimes "Araw ng mga Namayapa" (approximately "Day of the deceased") is observed as All Souls' Day. This day and the one before and one after it is spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where prayers and flowers are offered, candles are lit and the graves themselves are cleaned, repaired and repainted.

In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints" by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.


  1. "Hallows" meaning "saints," and "mas" meaning "Mass"; the preceding evening (Halloween) is the "Vigil or Eve of All Hallows".
  2. For example, Violet Alford ("The Cat Saint", Folklore 52.3 [September 1941:161-183] p. 181 note 56) observes that "Saints were often confounded with the Lares or Dead. Repasts for both were prepared in early Christian times, and All Saints' Day was transfered in 835 to November 1st from one of the days in May which were the old Lemuralia"; Alford notes Pierre Saintyves, Les saints successeurs des dieux, Paris 1906 (sic, i.e. 1907).
  3. "All Saints Day," The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, ed. E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 41-42.
  4. Hutton, Ronald (1996). Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford Paperbacks. ISBN 0-19-285448-8. 
  5. The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1907), s.v. "All Saints' Day" (see External links, below).
  7. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Liturgical Calendar 2007 for the Dioceses of the United States of America 7, (2006).

See also

External links

be-x-old:Дзень Усіх Сьвятых bs:Svi Sveti br:Gouel an Hollsent ca:Tots Sants cs:Všech svatých da:Allehelgensdag pdc:Allerheilichieo:Ĉiuj Sanktuloj fo:Allahalgannadagurgl:Día de Tódolos Santos hi:आंल सेंटस डे hr:Svi sveti is:Allraheilagramessala:Sollemnitas Omnium Sanctorum li:Allerheilige hu:Mindenszentek mk:Ден на сите светци ms:Hari Para Orang Kudusja:諸聖人の日 no:Allehelgensdag nn:Helgemessept:Dia de Todos-os-Santos ksh:Allerhellije ro:Sărbătoarea Tuturor Sfinţilor qu:Tukuy Santukuna ru:День всех святых simple:All Saints Day sl:Dan spomina na mrtve szl:Wšyjstkich Śwjyntych fi:Pyhäinpäivä sv:Alla helgons dag tl:Undas vec:Ognisanti zh:諸聖節

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